Bubble on Eyeball

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What Does a Bubble on the Eye Look Like?

The eye may develop a bubble or bump on the conjunctiva (a clear membrane that spans the eye’s white area). However, the blister-like growth may differ in size, shape, and location, depending on the underlying medical condition. Some individuals may describe a white bump in the eye, while others will report a yellowish, small mass. 

In any case, when individuals report a bubble on the eye, it is important to visit the ophthalmology clinic and speak with an eye doctor. A proper eye examination and assessment of general health can help determine the cause for the atypical growth in the eye. 

Potential Causes of Bubble on Eyeball

Pterygium

A wedge-shaped tissue growth on the conjunctiva, a pterygium first presents on the side of the eye. However, it can continue growing to reach the cornea, raise discomfort, and even cause vision problems. 

pterygium 1

More common names for pterygium include “surfer’s eye” or “farmer’s eye.” Individuals who spend many hours under the sun or in arid, dusty environments face an increased risk of developing the eye condition.

Pinguecula

A pinguecula is a yellowish patch or bump that will mostly appear on the side of the eye nearest to the nose. It is a deposit of protein, fat, or calcium that can develop when the eye experiences chronic irritation. 

Some common causes of pinguecula include:

  • The aging process 
  • Exposure to UV light
  • Dry eyes 

Individuals who have a pinguecula can later develop a pterygium. In these cases, the abnormal growth on the eye can reach across the surface of the eye to the cornea and impair vision. 

Conjunctival Cyst (Clear Bubble) 

The conjunctival cyst is a cellular-lined sac that holds either fluid or solid- or semi-solid material. As the name suggests, the conjunctival cyst is located on the conjunctiva (which borders the inside of the eyelid and covers the sclera). 

Individuals who have this eye condition may experience some of the following accompanying symptoms:

  • Eye inflammation
  • Increased tear production 
  • Eye reddening 
  • Discomfort surrounding the eye 

Additionally, a conjunctival cyst can occur as a result of trauma or be present at birth. 

Noncancerous Tumor (Limbal Dermoid)

Limbal dermoid, otherwise known as an epibulbar dermoid, is a type of cyst found where the cornea and sclera meet. This type of cyst is congenital, meaning it presents at birth. However, it can grow to more significant proportions and, if not treated, result in vision impairment. Children with this condition have developed astigmatism (an eye problem that causes blurred vision). 

This condition does not have any specific cause per se. However, it is usually associated with some ocular and systemic abnormalities, like:

  • Goldenhar syndrome
  • Duane’s syndrome 
  • Coloboma of the upper lid
  • Lacrimal stenosis

Conjunctival Tumor

A conjunctival tumor is malignant and often is classifiable as one of the following cancers:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma. This will be reddish or white and flat or elevated. While this type of tumor typically does not metastasize, it can extend into the eye orbit and sinuses and even cause vision problems. 
  • Malignant melanoma. This type of tumor begins as a nevus (freckle) and is aggressive. Metastasis of cancer can occur, and the removal of the tumor will be necessary. An eye doctor will perform surgical removal, cryotherapy (freezing treatment), or provide special anti-cancer eye drops as part of the treatment regimen.  
  • Lymphoma. This salmon-colored lesion usually hides on the eye surface, beneath the eyelid. It may indicate systemic lymphoma (affects the body) or only be present in the conjunctiva. To confirm if the mass is a lymphoma, the ophthalmologist will request a biopsy and work-up.  In cases where the problem does not extend further than the conjunctiva, external beam radiation is used. In all other cases, additional medication or chemotherapy will be necessary. 

Risks of Eye Bubbles

An eye bubble carries a few risks. 

First and foremost, it may indicate malignant cancer, namely, a conjunctival tumor. If individuals do not seek proper treatment, cancer may spread to other parts of the body. 

Another risk associated with eye bubbles is vision impairment. For example, limbal dermoid cysts can become so big that they create astigmatism. This problem can worsen and even cause amblyopia (lazy eye). 

Finally, if individuals have a pinguecula and do not receive the care they need, there is the risk of developing a pterygium (which can then cause vision problems). 

Treatment for Bubble on Eyeball

Treatment for bubbles on the eye will vary according to the underlying cause. It is important to seek medical advice and undergo an eye exam when an irregular growth appears.

Home Remedies

For a pinguecula or pterygium, individuals are recommended to do the following:

  • Wear sunglasses or contact lenses that block ultraviolet light 
  • Use wraparound glasses, goggles, or other protective eyewear in environments where the eyes may be exposed to dry, dusty conditions
  • Use artificial tears frequently to prevent dryness in arid conditions

For eyelid cysts, individuals are recommended to do the following:

  • Set a warm towel either on or close to the affected area of the eyelid 

Professional Treatment

In many cases, surgical removal may be an option proposed by the healthcare provider. For example, extensive growth of a pterygium can cause vision impairment, and pterygium surgery may be the most suitable treatment to address the eye issue. 

Pterygium surgery does not mean that a pterygium will not return. The recurrence rate falls between 30 and 40%. 

Other eye care treatment options include steroid eye drops (for eye irritation, for example).

Resources
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Boyd, Kierstan. “Pinguecula and Pterygium (Surfer's Eye) Treatment.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 29 Oct. 2020, www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/pinguecula-pterygium-diagnosis-treatment.

Boyd, Kierstan. “Six Things To Know about Pinguecula and Pterygium.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 31 July 2020, www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/six-things-to-know-about-pinguecula-pterygium.

“Eyelid Cyst Removal.” Drainage of Conjunctival Cyst, www.stjosephshospital.co.uk/treatments/specialities/ophthalmology/eyelid-cyst-removal/.

“Limbal Dermoid.” Limbal Dermoid | Texas Children's Hospital, www.texaschildrens.org/departments/ophthalmology/conditions-we-treat/limbal-dermoid.

“Ocular Oncology: Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.” Bascom Palmer Eye Institute | University of Miami Health System, www.umiamihealth.org/en/bascom-palmer-eye-institute/specialties/ocular-oncology.

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